It’s Easy to be a Peter Pan in this Place
Posted on Aug 26, 2020 by Visit Emporia
Peter Pan Park is a favorite among both Emporia residents and visitors. This 50+ acre park is packed full of amenities and offers something for all ages, especially those who like adventure. The land for the park was donated by the White family in 1926 and dedicated to the memory of their daughter Mary. Native Emporian William Allen White was a two-time Pulitzer Prize wining author and journalist and owner/editor of The Emporia Gazette newspaper. Mary died in horseback riding accident and White wrote that “she was a Peter Pan who refused to grow up.”
As expected in a piece of property that has been a park for almost a century, mature trees abound providing shade in most areas. What sets Peter Pan apart from other parks are the limestone structures, benches, trellises, and walls found throughout the park. Many of these structures are WPA projects built between 1935 and 1943. The largest of these structures was Monkey Island, which housed monkeys until the 1970’s when the monkeys began to escape by way of the matured trees. Each Spring Dynamic Discs opens the Emporia disc golf season with the Monkey Island Open.
One of the most picturesque structures is the boathouse on the north side of the lake. The amphitheater is another of the larger stone structures and is located in the southwest section of the park. The amphitheater has been used for concerts, plays, and weddings. Many senior photos, graduation pictures and wedding photos have been captured at Peter Pan.
The northwest section of the park boasts a four acre lake that is stocked regularly by Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism. In an effort to entice more youth to explore the outdoors and to prevent overfishing, Peter Pan, along with Jones Park, will be under a Youth Mentoring Fishing Program beginning January 1, 2021. Anyone 17 and older must be accompanied by a youth age 16 or under to fish in the parks.
A permanent 18-hole disc golf course was established in 2004. The course was designed by Emporian Eric McCabe, 2010 PDGA Professional World Champion. This course is a favorite among disc golfers who come to Emporia for the Glass Blown Open disc golf tournament. The design offers a variety of long and short holes. Hole 11 is a peninsula shot. The first tee is located just west of the parking lot behind the softball diamonds.
Two softball/baseball fields are located in the southeast area of the park. The fields are overseen by the Emporia Recreation Center and are used for youth summer softball leagues and weekend tournaments.
A community-built playground adorns the park east of the south end of the lake. The playground began as a community improvement project for the Leadership Emporia Class of 2004. It took four years to raise the funds by which time class member participation had dwindled. However, class members Robin Nelson and Mike Dorcey were determined that Emporia needed this addition to the park and they recruited additional committee members to help bring the project to fruition. From April 30th to May 4th of 2008, hundreds of community volunteers, both skilled and unskilled worked side-by-side to build the playground.
A separate playground east of the community-built playground was updated in 2018 with new equipment. Adjacent to this, a splash pad was installed in the Spring of 2019, replacing the 1931 wading pool used by generations of Emporians. The 3,500-plus square-foot splash pad has numerous water features and is sensor activated saving water when not in use.
Other Amenities and Enrichments
A bronze bust memorial of William Allen White is located on the east side of the lake. The memorial was dedicated in 1950 by Herbert Hoover who served as the 31st President of the United States.
A bronze sculpture of Peter Pan greets visitors on the north side of the park. A Spanish-American War memorial is located between the softball fields and the amphitheater. The Arbor and Kiwanis shelter houses can be reserved by calling the Park & Zoo office at (620) 341-4365. Restrooms are located near the splash pad.
Peter Pan is only one of twenty parks located in the city of Emporia and is the second largest. With all the amenities offered at the park it is also the busiest. If you haven’t visited Peter Pan Park, we invite you to stop by. Bring the kids and enjoy the splash pad and playgrounds, bring a buddy and play a challenging game of disc golf, or just sit in the shade and watch the world go by.
Location: Between S. Congress and S. West St. and Randolf Ave. south to the Cottonwood River
Shelter House Reservations: (620) 341-4265
Visit Emporia welcomes travelers and meeting planners, and serves as the visitor information center for Emporia, Kansas and surrounding area.